Francis Drake

Francis Drake

Francis Drake was an English antiquary who wrote the first major substantial history of the city, entitled Eboracum.

Drake was born in January 1696 and was baptised in Pontefract, the son of Francis Drake, the vicar of Pontefract and canon of York, and his wife Elizabeth. Drake was educated locally and was apprenticed to a local surgeon, Christopher Birbeck. After taking over the surgeon’s practice in his early 20s following Birbeck’s death in 1717, he grew in stature locally and was in 1727 appointed at the city’s surgeon.

Drake became interested in the history of the city and was given money by the city council in 1731, amongst others, towards illustrations for his new book. Drake was one of the first to research and collate information from the city archives, which the authorities had allowed him to access.

The Eboracum book was published in two volumes in January 1736 with 540 subscribers which paid for the creation of the work. The book was published by William Bowyer and a copy of the first edition of the book has been scanned as part of Google’s books project. Although parts of the book became out-dated much of the city’s history was recorded in a way that no-one else might have been able to do. In November 1736 Drake presented the city authorities with six copies of the book for the city archives.

Drake was married to Mary Woodyeare, from Doncaster, in York Minster in April 1720. She pre-deceased him in 1728, and they had five sons, two of whom survived childhood, including William Drake. Francis Drake didn’t remarry and he also later took the honorary position of surgeon to the York County Hospital from 1741 until 1756. Drake died in 1771 and is buried in Beverley Church.

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